Local troops depart for Iraq - Philadelphia News

WEST PHILADELPHIA - September 18, 2008 Company E of the PA. Army National Guard Unit set out to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom today; their spouses, parents, sons, and daughters on hand to bid them a difficult farewell.

For many of the soldiers, it will be their second tour of duty.

30 combat engineers from the 109th Infantry Regiment, marched into the Engineer Armory in West Philadelphia to mobilize for their deployment to Iraq.

They were reminded to stand united.

"Support each other. There will be difficult days ahead for each of you," Captain David Dettinbum of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard said.

They were told how to best survive.

"Be tolerate and flexible. Make sure you're situationally aware, know what's going on around you," First Sergeant Raynard Jamision (Ret.) said.

As 30 families said tearful goodbyes, they were reminded of their own sacrifices, Children, brothers, mothers and sisters like those in the Harp family.

Like Sgt. Calvin Alexander, who said farewell to his wife Wanda, and daughter, Ceitera. Specialist John Reading, his girlfriend, and mother Deborah, they and Sgt. Robert Patterson and his wife, Cheryl received words of comfort from Sgt. First Cass, Brian Byrd.

"Reach out to the people that's out there, don't go by this on your own," Sgt. Byrd said.

"I understand our fight for our freedom. I just pray for his safe return," Cheryl Patterson said.

Cathy Rodriguez, due to give birth to her first child in a few weeks, had an especially tough time saying goodbye to her boyfriend, 19-year-old, Private First Class, Eddie Perez.

""Knowing that this is my job, I serve my country, keep my family safe. That's what keeps me driving on," Private Perez said.

And so the 109th infantry regiment boarded a bus for the airport; theirs will be a one year deployment.

Civilians in peace, soldiers in war, they are the Guard.

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